Friday, January 21, 2011

New Literacies Tools

Some of you may be interested as I am in the "new literacies". Our new Curriculum Framework places a greater emphasis than ever before on student and teacher use of media and educational technologies. I have explored the use of "cool tools" with some of my colleagues. At first I was intrigued by all the possibilities. Then I began asking, so what? How do these tools lead to better instruction and more powerful learning? I have found some intriguing answers.

This week I was following up with a school district on a workshop that had been presented several months ago. I wanted to connect the learning from the first workshop to mine. I took all of the text from the Power Point slides from October and copied it into Wordle http://www.wordle.net . Some of you may know and use Wordle. If not, Wordle takes a text, jumbles all the individual words, and makes those that have been used the most, large, bold, and colorful. I displayed the wordle from the first workshop and asked the participants to use the 5 - 6 largest words to write a 1 - 2 sentence summary of the content of the first workshop. It was amazing! The summaries instantly crystallized the essence of the work that had been done, setting the context for continuing the work. This was much more interesting than having me go over the highlights again. Try it with students as a way of accessing background on a new subject or as a way of summarizing a lesson or a unit. I am sure that you will invent even more ways to use Wordle and if you do, please share them.

Another tool that I have shared with teachers recently is e-Pals Global Community http://www.epals.com . Again, some of you may already be members, however, I especially like the idea of having classes with a particular population of English Learners correspond with a class whose students speak the same 2-3 languages. So, for instance a class with a population that speaks Portuguese and English can pair with a class in Portugal or Brazil where students are practicing the same languages. At the site, teachers put up a short description of their classes and which languages the students speak. No correspondence is sent until it is approved by the teacher. This project can be a class correspondence or teachers can set up individual secure accounts for their students. Any of us who have set up pen pals for our classes over the years know how motivating the experience can be, even for reluctant readers and writers.

Since we have been talking a lot about the new Curriculum Framework, I have created a wall at Wallwisher http://www.wallwisher.com . This is a site where colleagues can post comments and questions on a particular subject. I invite you to visit http://www.wallwisher.com/wall/newMAframework and post a message. Please reply to the question posted on that wall.

So far, all of the tools that I have used have been free. They are resources for teachers and students and there are many more. In addition, WGBH provides lots of resources for teaching and learning. I hope you are taking full advantage of Teachers Domain and Annenberg Learning.

We have been told that our students are digital natives but I don't think any of us are complete strangers to the exciting and inviting world that the Internet and New Literacies present with every passing day.